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Trump Faces Tidal Wave Of Criticism Over Handling Of Summit With Putin

U.S. President Donald Trump (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16

U.S. President Donald Trump was met with a tidal wave of criticism from friends and critics alike after his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with most saying his embrace of Putin while belittling U.S. agencies and allies was a betrayal of what the United States stands for.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, said late on July 16 that Trump was wrong to question once again the conclusions of the U.S. Justice Department and intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

"The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals," Ryan said.

The two previous Republican Party presidential candidates also denounced Trump for appearing to side with Putin, who denies any interference in U.S. elections, over his own agencies, which Trump once again accused of going on "a witch hunt" over the question of Russian meddling.

Trump's renewed questioning of U.S. intelligence -- at the same time he insisted that he has "great confidence" in it -- came even as the U.S. Justice Department announced yet another indictment targeting an alleged Russian operative -- this time, a woman in Washington who allegedly cultivated ties with Trump and his fellow conservatives as a covert agent for the Kremlin.

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Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican candidate for president, called Trump's behavior "disgraceful and detrimental to our democratic principles" and said it "undermines our national integrity and impairs our global credibility."

"Russia remains our No. 1 geopolitical adversary," Romney said, adding that Trump's stance "defies reason and history."

Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and current chairman of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, said Trump's press conference at his Helsinki summit with Putin "was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory" and "a tragic mistake."

"President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin," McCain said. "No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant."

Even close allies of Trump said they were shocked and concerned by Trump's stance at the summit.

Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who in the past has defended Trump against criticism by more conventional Republicans, called the summit "the most serious mistake" of Trump's presidency -- and one that "must be corrected -- immediately."

The wave of criticism from Trump's own party was so overwhelming that the White House announced late on July 16 that Trump would be meeting the next day with lawmakers. A spokesman did not specify who would attend the meeting.

Meanwhile, Putin, in an interview with Fox News, appeared to ratify the widespread impression that he was the big winner from the summit with Trump.

Putin said the meeting showed that Western efforts to isolate Russia with sanctions and other measures had failed.

"I think you see for yourself that these efforts failed. And they were never bound to succeed," Putin told Fox. "I mean, take a look at the scale, at the sheer size of [Russia], the importance of it in terms of the international security and the economy, take its contribution into the global energy market. It's too big to be sanctioned and isolated."

Democrats were even harsher than Republicans in denouncing Trump for what they said amounted to the betrayal of the historic U.S. role in world affairs and even "treasonous" behavior with Putin that some said could amount to impeachable offenses.

Former National Intelligence Director James Clapper called Trump's acquiescence to Putin "an incredible capitulation," while former CIA chief John Brennan labeled it "nothing short of treasonous."

"He is wholly in the pocket of Putin," Brennan tweeted, adding that Trump's behavior "exceeds the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors," meaning that it could be grounds for impeachment in Congress.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Trump's news conference with Putin was "beneath the dignity" of his office.

"Flattering dictators will not advance American interests. It makes us less safe," Biden said.

Trump did have one prominent defender: Senator Rand Paul, who vied with Trump for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Paul called the constant criticism in Washington of Trump's efforts to improve relations with Russia a "Trump derangement syndrome."

"I think these people are mistaken," Paul told the Associated Press. "We should look for ways to make the dialogue better."

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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